Very little of what Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says or does surprises me anymore, no matter how unfounded or non-normative. I have even gotten used to his occasionally saying or doing something sane and reasonable, out of the blue. It’s almost like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
However, since Netanyahu is an intelligent man, and for better or worse is the prime minister of my country, from time to time – and especially when Dr. Jekyll makes an appearance – I feel like asking him: What on earth were you thinking?
I admit that some of what follows is cynical, but not everything, and at least with regard to the latter some answers would certainly be welcome.
It is difficult not to start with the latest faux pas, whether deliberate or accidental: Dr. Ran Baratz. I think it is reasonable to assume that like Baratz Netanyahu believes that US President Barak Obama is an anti-Semite, and that the US has had more sophisticated and savvy secretaries of state than John Kerry. (We all know Netanyahu didn’t want Reuven Rivlin as president.)
However, don’t you think, Netanyahu, that calling someone an anti-Semite just because he happens to disapprove of your policy, opposes Israel’s continued occupation of and Jewish settlement activities in Judea and Samaria, and disapproves of Israel’s haughty, not to say racist policy vis-à-vis the Palestinians, belittles the danger of authentic anti-Semitism, which is unfortunately prevalent and spreading?
And incidentally do you agree with Baratz that Obama “gave” the Iranians nuclear weapons? Don’t you think that what Obama was trying to do was to delay as much as possible the inevitable development by Iran of such weapons? Could anyone have stopped us from developing nuclear weapons? Nobody “gave” them to us.
And regarding Kerry, is it wise to badmouth on Facebook the secretary of state of the country you are hoping will substantially increase its military aid to Israel, no matter what you think of him, as Baratz did, or even in the privacy of chambers, as you apparently do?
Which reminds me: What do you think about your own Agriculture Minister, who is busy fighting for the right of Jews to pray on the Temple Mount, contrary to international agreements on the subject, and concocting hallucinatory plans to export cats for halachic reasons, and to stop immunizing jackals and wolves against rabies and to dry up Israel’s botanical gardens (all within the Green Line) – apparently as a protest against budgetary cuts?
You probably disagree with much of what Uri Ariel believes in and does, but how would you react if Obama’s spokesman wrote a post in his Facebook account badmouthing Ariel, and you for keeping such wacky minister in your government?
And what about Rivlin? With all the black cats that have walked between the two of you (maybe you should encourage the export of black cats?), do you really believe that he does not represent values that are vital to Israel’s continued democratic existence, and do you disagree with the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) that there is a danger to his life from the very same circles that pose a threat to your own life (and these circles are not left-wing)?
The bottom line: Did you tell Obama that you are going to “deal” with the Baratz issue after your return from Washington just because you are trying to temporarily pacify him, or do you understand that a man like Baratz cannot serve Israel’s propaganda effort, because he doesn’t understand the first thing about effective diplomacy, or because the views that you share with him are simply not explainable to anyone but your own political supporters?
And to another topic: Did you withdraw your accusation that it was the Mufti of Jerusalem (who was certainly a nasty piece of work) who convinced Hitler to burn the Jews because you were convinced that you had made a mistake, or do you really believe this to be true, but didn’t want to contradict the current German chancellor, Angela Merkel, who insisted on taking full German responsibility for the Final Solution?
And if you believe that deep down in their souls the Palestinians are Nazis, what do you think of the crowd that came to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the murder of Rabbi Meir Kahane, and cheered nauseating speeches delivered on that occasion?
But to more serious matters – not that the preceding are trivial ones. Though you probably wouldn’t deny that your own political survival plays a major role in the decisions you take, I don’t really believe that the reason you are acting as foreign minister, communications minister, economy and trade minister and in several other, lesser capacities, in addition to your premiership, has to do with secret dictatorial ambitions.
You yourself said after the elections that a government supported by 61 MKs is OK, but that one supported by more MKs is better. The three theoretical options you have for increasing your coalition are Yisrael Beytenu, Yesh Atid and the Zionist Union. None of these options are free of worries for you. You don’t really trust the leaders of any of the three, all of whom openly admit that they would like to replace you.
Avigdor Liberman was a disappointment in your last government, and demands a much more aggressive security policy, which you are wary of. Yair Lapid is a half-baked braggart, and you don’t really want any more of those around you (you recently sent one to the UN). Isaac Herzog is half of the duo you mocked in the course of the last election campaign, and he would certainly pull your government leftwards if he were to join. So who is the “lesser evil” in your eyes?
Which brings me to my last set of questions.
Within the limits of the feasible (not including the disappearance of the Palestinians from Eretz Yisrael or their converting to Zionism, the replacement of the mosques on the Temple Mount with the Third Temple, or ensuring that Iran will never turn nuclear – though perhaps you believe all these to be feasible), how do you perceive of an ideal Israel?
Would it be a smaller state with a secure Jewish majority, or a state with the largest possible territory, irrespective of demographics? Would it be truly pluralistic, or would it be pluralistic just like Mapai-ruled Israel was “pluralistic” in the early days of the state?
Would its Arab citizens have true equality, or would you expect them to thank Israel on a daily basis for not taking away their citizenship and the right to vote and be elected to the Knesset?
Would the Likud revert to being what it was when it was first formed in 1973 – a right-wing liberal party, or would the Likud remain what it is today, a party some of whose more boisterous MKs are vulgar, xenophobic, Arab-hating populists, and very few of whose current members are traditional, liberal democrats?
And last but not least, would this ideal Israel do everything in its power to be part of “the family of nations,” or would it be “a people that dwells alone,” that doesn’t care about what all those “anti-Semites” and “delegitimizers of Israel” (a term used by deputy foreign minister Hotovely last week) think? If the latter is the case, Baratz is your man!
The writer is a political scientist and retired Knesset employee.
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